March 15, 2011, 4:15 PM

Microsoft launches a browser with enhanced privacy settings

Internet Explorer 9 features built in do-not-track options.

Lead Photo

Microsoft Corp. today launched Internet Explorer 9, a new version of the most widely used web browser. IE 9 includes a privacy setting option designed to let customers block their information from being shared with web sites beyond the one they are visiting, such as with marketers that may be advertising on the site.

Microsoft says IE 9’s tracking protection tool puts consumers in control of what data they are sharing as they move around the web. While some online marketing organizations say the self-regulatory efforts they’ve initiated should be given a chance to work, Microsoft says those efforts and the new browser technology are complementary.

 “We believe that there is always room to do more than the minimum and that a do-not-track user preference alone will not be sufficient for many consumers worldwide today,” Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Internet Explorer,  wrote yesterday on the Windows Internet Explorer blog. “We will continue to differentiate Internet Explorer by making available high levels of online privacy protection that consumers can control and take advantage of as they see fit.”

The Direct Marketing Association is the trade association leading the enforcement of the Advertising Option program that online marketers developed last year. A DMA spokeswoman says the group stands by the program and hopes that Microsoft will direct its users to work with their program.

“We believe that the advertising option program is the best program for consumer choice. It is a universal way for consumers to opt out of receiving behaviorally targeted ads and spans browsers,” she says. She says that all commercial browser companies were involved with the development of the ad industry’s online behavioral advertising principles and the Advertising Option program.

The IE 9 tracking protection tool comes at a time when consumers’ online privacy is a topic of growing debate in Washington. The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce in December each proposed rules that would limit how online marketers could collect or user consumers’ browsing information. Senators John Kerry and John McCain are reportedly also working on legislation that would require companies to get consumers’ permission to share browsing data, and the bill may be introduced as early as this week.

Microsoft says a test version of IE 9, which also included a form of the tracking protection tool, was downloaded more than 40 million times since it was made public in September. 57% of all Internet users use some version of Internet Explorer to surf the web, according to NetApplications, a company that tracks browser market share.

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